Vincent Van Uffelen on Tue, 27 Jun 2017 19:03:52 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> How Tinder helped to beat May & could win the White

Very interesting paper. I'm always amazed how much you can already derive from communication meta data.

The internet (and much more so social media) might simply much better in tearing systems down than building them. Probably the main reason that movements on the internet do only flare up and not last longer is that they have no clear "skin" in the game of real life. Prem Chandavarkar highlighted here a few month back the difference of communities of network and communities of practice which is a very interesting distinction to look at. In my eyes the online alt-right would have no chance if there wouldn't have been offline structures like donating billionaires, the republican party, or Fox TV into the voter's daily life.

Looking at the longevity problem of online based activism I see several interrelated points that I find really noteworthy to mention. Please, take them with a pinch of salt. I'm rather thinking of obstacles of scaling out of niche communities created by and actively maintained by highly engaged and sensitized members. Small communities have different dynamics but engagement in long lasting large scale communities is probably a little bit more driven by instincts (as in satisfying the cave human's tribal mind) than ratio.

.. is a very fickle thing. So easily damaged so hard to create. The mind-gobbling complexity of the block chain, 5 star ratings, or review systems are all helping but they might not add enough trust potential (that can't be easily challenged by other messages) to create many long lasting relationships in online communities.

Social media might actually not be good enough in mediating the tender signals that create the feeling of resonance between the communicating. I really wonder how many here on Nettime have already met in real life, have faces attached to the names, have seen the other side laugh?

Looking into Skinner's box and crawling out of it again. But if I push a button I want something reliably to happen, again and again! Signing a one click petition and receiving an email that "we" did it might not give the long lasting feeling of impact, especially if one is actually not close (physically or emotionally) to the affected.

The internet is arguably quite flat as power structure. However, social media is a quite bad tool for decision making. It's all voice and no filtering, collation, compacting, or evaluation. Looking at other online based decision making systems (e.g. and hearing peoples experiences with them tell me that it remains very hard work to make decisions. I wonder how many can actually invest this energy. I'm really interested in recent discussion of the "failure" of the Occupy Movement which seems often to rotate around the hesitation to set up clearly defined and publicly communicated organizational structures. That would have many relieved from the "burden" to actually make decisions about the many things that needed to be decided and given them the head space to do other things (in life or in the community).

With all the power of words and images. Online media is still a very shallow mirror of the real beautiful mess. The feeling of physical presence, the wordless experience of sharing space (and being responsible for it) are just some examples that come to my mind. Communities grow and persist to the repetition of shared action. Clicking a few times, showing up to a rally once in a while, might not really cut it. Furthermore, empathy, is often difficult to evoke. Social media might have to rely too much on the "shocking" to do so, risking to create very quickly resistance.

At some point it's about having some potatoes ($£€) on the plate and often the one who provides wins. I feel that many online (mediated) projects lack the real life counter part. The system that actually affects life locally and physically has a very strong advantage. Also cultural change only embodies very slowly. Like rain on the sun baked desert dirt, change might often just flush over, sweeping all away that is not rooted very well, uprooting some, but not only keeping the well rooted behind but also provides new clearances for it to grow. I really wonder if the online world needs to think more about building real life, small scale, and local structures, working models to which people can attache desires, thoughts, admiration to be able to project their ability to be part of it. Local and tangible might be important as it pleases the tribal mind.

The bigger the group the more more basic the story of the purpose of existence might have to be. For me it moves up from the particular (say from the the Mallorca Donkey Sanctuary) to the need to consider animal welfare, to ensuring a perpetually regenerating earth. As the narrative becomes more and more abstract, the "gain" of acting for it becomes more and more intangible. Neo-liberalism, in my eyes provides a a great narrative that joins the prospect of a very personal gain straight through all layers with the big picture. It also stuck because it fits into the group think (for many to my amazement it makes still sense). Change will have to focus on an alternative narrative, that sticks. Bursty social media action shooting in all directions might simply lack the ability to latch onto the bigger narrative. "Anti-*" is not good enough as it does not open pathways for new collective thinking.

While "everyone" is on social media not everyone is actually active. Many people that might quietly take on important roles in the background of offline organizations have no means to do this online as everything is public. Someone has to bring the trash out and social media based, primarily online based organizations might lack the support of silent thrash bag carrying. In real life communities you meet the "good soul" that is always there but does not stand on the podium. Have they got their place, their means, to act as they like

Lastly, there are many habits that social media form or even try to build. The slot machine effect is a very well discussed one. Communities are probably very much like muscles, they need workout, nourishment, and attention, all this is hard work. Living on a platform that abuses habits might rob actually the users' energy to act. You need to be flashy to keep attention (even to be brought to visibility by the platforms), and the hard labor of day-to-day engagement, might not transfer very well into the online world. Also, looking at long lasting online community membership from the habit angle (thinking of the very basic reminder-routine-reward habit loop) I really wonder about the rewards that social media triggered campaigns can deliver to allow community participation to become a habit. Especially, if the community strives to counter rather intangible or for many through the lens of daily experience barely perceivable issues such as climate change, inequality, or racism.

Hmm, this turned out to be rather long. Seems like I'm working on something. Feedback is very, very welcome. Thanks!


On 26/06/2017 06:05, Felix Stalder wrote:
I think what social media are really good at is to produce "bursts"
of activity. Things flair up, reach a lot of people, and then die
out quite quickly. The idea that these bursts would, over time,
consolidate into something more structurally coherent (other than
companies that provide the infrastructure) has been wrong, at least so
far. This is probably not a co-incidence.


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